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A new market for wheat is emerging that could result in a re-think in the way wheat is grown in some parts of the UK.

The demand will certainly be there, but where are we going to find just over 2.2 million tonnes of wheat for this new market and what specification will be demanded by these factories?

Wheat will be increasingly required as a raw material to produce ethanol as part of the UK's contribution to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and ultimately EU legislation in the form of the Renewable Energy Directive. Both require producers of fuel for road transport to include components of the fuel from renewable and sustainable sources. Under current plans UK fuel producers will need to ensure that 5% of fuel is derived from renewable resources by 2013-14 rising to 10% by 2020.

The purpose of the legislation is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the consumption of fossil fuels and to ensure that the alternatives do not produce more GHGs than they save during the whole production process from farm gate to fuel forecourt. An added requirement is that the new demand for crops for biofuels must not disrupt the security of the food and feed industries nor must it contribute to the destruction of environmentally important ecosystems such as rainforests.

Frontier Agriculture will supply Vivergo Fuels (a joint venture between BP, British Sugar and DuPont) with wheat as a feedstock for the bioethanol plant under construction at Hull. Farms in the region will have a new market to tap into for wheat grown from the 2010 harvest and decisions being made today could have an influence on the suitability of the wheat for the end market of bioethanol production.

This new and exciting market will require a review of wheat production, as the requirements for wheat as a feedstock for bioethanol are slightly different to feed wheat. It will be crucial to understand the energy consumption and GHGs produced relative to bioethanol yield. Cultivation and input strategies will require guidance, which Frontier is investigating in trials, to increase our level of expertise and offer the best advice and help to our growers. It will be important to pay attention in two crucial areas namely cultivation techniques, and hence diesel usage, together with the optimisation of nitrogen use. There will not need to be a sea-change in the way we grow wheat; but it will be more a matter of attention to detail.

There are some quicker wins in prospect. It has become clear that certain varieties of wheat give better alcohol yields when processed. Frontier Agriculture has conducted a series of trials over the last few years and a picture is emerging of varieties that could be more suited to the production of bioethanol than others.

Our plan is to provide growers with guidance on other agronomic inputs to the wheat crop that can influence the provision of a good sample as a feed stock for ethanol production but we also need to be aware of the GHGs we've produced. Frontier Agriculture is developing reporting tools for growers to use while potentially reducing their carbon footprint in producing the wheat for the production of bioethanol so that the production process can be presented as one that is environmentally sustainable.

This is a great opportunity for growers wishing to be involved in a new industry with a secure future as well as helping to meet the UK renewable fuel commitments in terms of reducing GHGs in a sustainable manner.

Please contact your Farm Trader to discuss the benefits for your farm business further.

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